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Demos Create Brand Buzz

Published May 14, 2008

BY JASON NORMAN

LEXINGTON, SC—Nothing hints at the summer road trip more than youthful indiscretions, Jack Kerouac, convertibles and—brands new and old hitting the hot pavement to create product buzz and ultimately pump up sales.

Brands like Storck are blistering down American highways for the first time, hitting events and retailers big and small.

“We’re only in the early stages of our demo tour,” said Dave Goeppner, marketing manager for The Hawley Company, the U.S. distributor for Storck. “But the response has been fantastic.”

The high-end Storck brand has a huge following in Europe, but still remains a relative unknown since its introduction to the United States two years ago.

Goeppner said that 20 to 30 “really qualified people” have attended its retail demo events thus far. At least two of these savvy, bike-minded consumers have spent upwards of $6,600 for an Absolutist or $10,000 on a Fascenario.

“These are the 45 year olds that want to blow everybody away on the weekend group rides,” Goeppner said.

BH Bikes USA/Pivot Cycles is also hitting the road for the first time since founder Chris Cocalis founded the venture last year.

“We need the exposure,” said Adam Vincent, sales and marketing specialist for BH Bikes USA/Pivot Cycles. “People need to ride the product before they buy something that’s $3,000.”

It’s not just high-end road and mountain bike brands. Shimano is leading a six-week tour of Coasting bikes with more than 20 stops, looking to entice the person who’s been off the bike for a while. All seven Coasting brands are participating with at least one model.

“We want to demonstrate how the product works, and how it fits into your life,” said Shannon Bryant, Shimano’s Coasting project coordinator. “This is really about fun.”

It’s also about getting retailers hooked just as much as the consumer.

“We’re having to market inside and outside the industry,” Bryant said. “For the people outside we tell them, ‘You don’t have to be flying down the mountain in full body armor.’ From the inside we tell them ‘There are a lot of people who want this casual experience.’”

The Coasting demo tour will partner with retailers along the tour route, but it will set up in Coasting friendlier public places instead of shop parking lots.

“Our primary objective is to get a cross-section of people,” Bryant said. “If we can catch people out on their lunch break—that’s what we want to try to do.”

GT is going all out on its first summer demo tour that recently hosted events in Fruita, Colorado. Coffee in the morning, a CycleOps trainer at a rider’s disposal before the ride and a post-ride barbeque—GT covered all the bases.

“In the fall, we’ll add cyclocross bikes to our demo fleet and offer pre-race skills clinics with GT pro Todd Wells,” said Jenni Schwai, director of marketing for GT. “Our demo program focuses on mountain biking and cyclocross because it’s difficult to try these bikes at a dealer.”

Schwai said GT receives feedback from consumers and retailers, which it then shares with product development and sales teams.

Cervelo’s new eRide test program also gets plenty of feedback through a survey it has consumers fill out before and after their ride. Cervelo’s demo program allows people to go out on their own at retail stops instead of group rides.

“Usually they’re out for about 30 minutes,” said Fabio Selvig, European marketing director for Cervelo, who’s heading up the program. “We don’t want to force product down their throat.”

Cervelo public relations manager Peter Donato said it’s important for consumers to be sure they’re making the right purchase.

But it’s about more than just the bikes; it’s about getting to know Cervelo’s employees better, too.

“Retailers and consumers get to talk to our people,” Donato said. “It definitely creates a bonding experience.”

Sand Canyon Cyclery owner Jim Manton, who played host to Storck in April, agrees.

“When you get to know them it makes it more personalized, and it motivates you to sell their product,” Manton said.

Almost 50 people showed up at Sand Canyon Cyclery in Irvine, California, for Storck’s visit. Manton figured that Storck’s stop would be more about the experience than the sale.

“Storck isn’t a brand that you’d expect to demo,” said Manton. “I looked at it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them [consumers]. I told them, ‘You probably won’t buy it, but you’ll get a chance to ride it.’”

Manton figured wrong, adding that he will probably sell a couple Storck bikes as a result of the tour.

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